Lupita’s Dream May Be Valid But Is It Viable Enough For Hollywood

When Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong'o won her Oscar for supporting role in 12 Years A Slave and gave her sure-to-be-memorable speech, the world got all teary-eyed. Her words; "Wherever you are from, your dreams are valid” echoed around the world. Like many I was touched, however memory soon reminded me that these moments, though wonderful, are short-lived for blacks in Hollywood. 

We have seen this moment before; a black actress gives a stunning performance and she is showered with accolades but after the award season she is relegated to d-list status while her white counterparts with the same break are afforded a different career trajectory. 

In recent times we saw it with Jenifer Hudson after her win for Dreamgirls. Instead of being catapulted to leading woman status she was getting small roles. Thanks to her music she was able to maintain a blossoming career. She has since only been able to take on roles made for black actresses like Winnie and Life of Bees. 

Gabriel Sedibe encountered an even colder shoulder from Hollywood after her win. Monique and Olivia Spencer have had no smooth sailing either. 

Even the golden girl, the most famous black actress in Hollywood -- Halle Berry, has not really had it easy after her Oscar win. She has admitted that it is still difficult for her to get roles with substance. 

The guys have it slightly easy but they too are not immune to the discrimination, though it does not hurt their bank balance like it does the women. While black actors can get the mainstream big studio movies where they do not have to play stereotypical black characters, they too still need to have a white supporting cast to carry the films. 

Will Smith has topped Hollywood lists like highest box office grossing star and paid actor a few times but when you look at his movies you will see a distinct pattern of always being paired with a white actor. Even Bad Boys had to have Tea Leoni to be accepted by white audiences.

As soon as a black leading actor is surrounded by other black characters, the movie is immediately deemed a black film and will likely not see the light of day in funding. Big studios would not dare risk putting a black only leading cast in a movie without it being a "black story".  

I love that Lupita has no delusions of playing in the same playing field as Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, Charlize Theron and others after this win. She understands that  award winning black actresses before her such as Whoopi Goldberg, Halle Berry, Gabourey Sedibe, Queen Latifah, Monique, Angela Basset, Alfre Woodard, Cicely Tyson and even Oprah Winfrey have had to play second fiddle to their white counterparts even after they have proven that they have the skill to act. 

On a more promising note, Lupita has a unique advantage of having been embraced by all of Hollywood. The fashion, celebrity and artistic fraternities seem to all embrace her. Fashion designers are clamoring to get their garments worn by her as she kept dazzling onlookers on the red carpet this entire award season.

To be a moviestar, and an A-list one at that, an actress needs to be able to pull big names from the fashion world when she steps on the red carpet. After that the media attention follows, that means covers and lucrative endorsement deals. 

Her universal appeal and seamless celerity gravitas ensures that directors might be comfortable with giving her those blockbuster roles. She can easily take on a leading role simply because -- if I am to be blunt here -- white audiences seem to be comfortable with her. 

Who knows? Maybe Lupita is the one. 

All that said; what a pivotal moment in history that someone as gracious as Lupita gets to be the first black African actress to win an Oscar. Kenya and the continent is proud of her achievement. I am proud of her and cannot wait to see if she is the one who will break those race barriers in Hollywood. 

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